Floyd Collins

Floyd Collins at BoHo Theatre

Book by Tina Landau

Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel

Directed by Peter Marston Sullivan

Music Direction by Alan Bukowiecki

Ambitious folk operetta impresses on several levels.

For a limited budget, non-Equity theatre, such as BoHo Theatre, to mount a sprawling, difficult to sing folk operetta is quite ambitious. But with a symbolic cave-like set complete with tunnels and trapdoors (designed by Diane D. Fairchild), a tuneful five-piece jug band, and a worthy cast of fourteen – BoHo has a “ripe-fine”  show to see. Under the expert direction of Peter Marston Sullivan, Floyd Collins tells the story of a farmer/entrepreneur and wondering cave explorer, Floyd Collins (the rich voiced and charismatic Jim DeSelm) who loves to dream about finding the next big tourist attraction cave to rival the nearby Mammoth Cave.

Floyd Collins at BoHo Theatre at theater wit

When he contorts into one cave too many, he gets both feet stuck under a large slab of rock. After a day or so, his family organizes a search to rescue Floyd. Once his brother Homer (Jon Harrison) finds him, he realizes that Floyd is in trouble.  No one except the young reporter, Skeets Miller (the rich-voiced Greg Foster) can slink into the narrow cave opening.  The two bond as the rescue attempts become labored.

Floyd Collins at BoHo Theatre at theater wit

Meanwhile, a circus atmosphere erupts after Miller’s story get syndicated across the nation. It’s 1925 when papers garner a story into sensationalist event guaranteed to bring a crowd  to rural Kentucky. The locals try to cash in including Lee Collins (Russell Alan Rowe), Floyd’s father.  Meanwhile, Floyd is stuck and suffering for 14 days as arguments ensue as to how to safely rescue Floyd.  The show’s tone is optimistic and hopeful right  up to the tragic end. The theme of freedom – personal, financial and spiritual is deftly presented here.  The complex book by Tina Landau could use a trim. The lush, folksy score and lyrics by Adam Guettel contain several fine songs. “The Call” an echoing cave rant is a treat as is the anthem “Where a Man Belongs.”  “The Riddle Song” duet by Homer and Floyd is amazingly fresh. The score even contains a funny tune that spoofs the news media – “Is That Remarkable” among the varied folksy tunes.

Floyd Collins at BoHo Theatre at theater wit

The production runs a tad long at two hours, thirty minutes as it drags in spots. The recitative  (sung dialogue) was a problem  in places for Sarah Bockel and Jon Harrsion as both were challenged by the complex notes and emotional presentation of the sung dialogue. But, on the whole this cast rendered a most impressive vocal rendition of Guettel’s lofty score. Among the fine cast, Jim DeSelm’s Floyd and Greg Foster’s Skeets gave particularly  excellent performances.

Floyd Collins is a fine, entertaining folk operetta that handles tragedy of Floyd Collins with respect and emotional impact. BoHo Theatre’s ambitious intent evolves into a well done musical. This show is worthy of an audience.

Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: June 17, 2012

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Floyd Collins page at theatreinchicago.com

At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL, www.bohotheatre.com, call 773-975-8150, tickets $22 – $28, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 1:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through July 15, 2012